A grand tale for present fans and future ones, too.

SCRIBBLES, SORROWS, AND RUSSET LEATHER BOOTS

THE LIFE OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT

A richly detailed account of the life, family, and career of a renowned woman of letters.

Though she goes a little overboard in the sound-bite quote department—as biographers of this author are wont to do since the Alcotts and many of their friends were compulsive diarists and letter writers—Rosenberg generally avoids getting bogged down in fussy details. The result is a fresh and free-flowing character study of “a real-life heroine” gifted not only with versatile authorial chops, but a powerful sense of family responsibility and an uncommonly generous spirit. Family tragedies and Alcott’s own slow death from (probably) mercury poisoning get full play, but the overall tone is relatively bright; her experiences as a nurse in a Civil War hospital are quickly brushed in as source material for her Hospital Sketches, for example. Her various supposed (but never verified) romantic flings get so much speculative attention that Rosenberg’s prim “and in the end it is not our business” is amusingly disingenuous. Likewise, the profitable “gothic and romantic” works, which readers are frequently reminded the subject herself labeled rubbish, are described by Alcott as “gorgeous fancies” on a later page. Still, readers bemused by the contradictions will be no less moved for being entertained. Alcott’s progressive views (and a possible family connection with the Underground Railroad) are noted in the narrative. Chapters are prefaced by Sudyka’s full-page, naïve-style illustrations that evoke the historical setting.

A grand tale for present fans and future ones, too. (source notes, bibliography) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9435-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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An emphasis on character over events gives this some appeal to readers on both sides of the political…wall.

JOHN MCCAIN

AN AMERICAN HERO

Admiring portrait of the late war hero, politician, and presidential candidate.

Although she begins by quoting his doting grandpa (“that boy has the stamp of nobility on his brow”), Gormley largely steers clear of outright hagiography. After recounting “Johnny” McCain’s family history and some youthful wobbles, she describes in some detail his years as a horrifically injured and mistreated prisoner of the North Vietnamese. Following his return, a “habit of moving forward, always forward in life” propelled him into politics as an outspoken “maverick,” with an irritating (to his colleagues) tendency to value principles over expediency. His marriages and children receive less mention than the rises and falls of his political fortunes or the details of his legislative work on campaign finance reform and other initiatives on the way to becoming a rare, if not always raised, voice of dissent in the Senate during President Donald Trump’s administration. Many readers may find his hawkish views on foreign policy hard to stomach and rightly view the author’s efforts to make him seem almost an ally of President Barack Obama’s with skepticism. Still, his achievements, as well as his undeniable personal and political courage, make him a notable figure. The profile concludes just prior to his death in August 2018 before closing with a detailed timeline and a large list of sources—but, oddly, no index (nor are there any illustrations).

An emphasis on character over events gives this some appeal to readers on both sides of the political…wall. (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4386-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

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SHIPWRECKED!

THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF A JAPANESE BOY

The life of Manjiro Nakahama, also known as John Mung, makes an amazing story: shipwrecked as a young fisherman for months on a remote island, rescued by an American whaler, he became the first Japanese resident of the US. Then, after further adventures at sea and in the California gold fields, he returned to Japan where his first-hand knowledge of America and its people earned him a central role in the modernization of his country after its centuries of peaceful isolation had ended. Expanding a passage from her Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (1985, Newbery Honor), Blumberg not only delivers an absorbing tale of severe hardships and startling accomplishments, but also takes side excursions to give readers vivid pictures of life in mid-19th-century Japan, aboard a whaler, and amidst the California Gold Rush. The illustrations, a generous mix of contemporary photos and prints with Manjiro’s own simple, expressive drawings interspersed, are at least as revealing. Seeing a photo of Commodore Perry side by side with a Japanese artist’s painted portrait, or strange renditions of a New England town and a steam train, based solely on Manjiro’s verbal descriptions, not only captures the unique flavor of Japanese art, but points up just how high were the self-imposed barriers that separated Japan from the rest of the world. Once again, Blumberg shows her ability to combine high adventure with vivid historical detail to open a window onto the past. (source note) (Biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17484-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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